The United States is filled with incredible natural spaces that have been protected as public lands for all to enjoy. I know as someone who didn’t grow up visiting national parks, though, it can feel a bit overwhelming to know what to do and which ones to visit. While these national treasures are set aside for everyone, we’re still working on equitable access, and knowledge is a big piece of that!
Our family has visited over 40 of the 63 US National Parks, as well as dozens of other federally protected sites. They truly are all unique and special, and we haven’t found a single one that we wouldn’t recommend. Still, there are some that are especially wonderful for families with young children. These also make great “intro” parks for those just starting to explore National Parks and other public lands.
Keep reading for the very best US National Parks for families to explore this summer and beyond!
Yosemite National Park
Honestly, it’s hard to beat Yosemite at any age. The stunning views of granite cliffs, pristine meadows, incredible wildlife, the rushing waterfalls, and rivers…it’s pretty magical. It’s easy to see why the Ahwahnee people loved this Valley and lived in a symbiotic relationship with it. Yosemite is an especially wonderful place for families with young children because there are so many opportunities for little ones to explore without needing to go on long trekking adventures. When heading to Yosemite with kids, I highly recommend taking bikes—it’s the very best way to get around the valley. Bring your own using a bike rack mounted to your RV, or you can rent adult sizes once you get there.
Yosemite is also amazing for providing some easy hikes with absolutely spectacular views. Sentinel Dome and Lower Yosemite Falls are especially fantastic! And don’t forget to leave some time for water play. Either go and splash on the shores of the Merced River or take some inflatables and float downstream (just make sure the water levels aren’t too high). Your kids – and you – will be in heaven.
Here’s a full blog post on everything you need to know about visiting Yosemite with kids!
Acadia National Park
Acadia would be amazing anywhere in the country, but it’s especially nice that such a gem is located in the northeast. While so many of the big National Park names are located in the western United States, it’s wonderful to have a truly awe-inspiring option closer to living further east.
Maine’s only National Park has something for every age and ability. There are several wheelchair-accessible and stroller-accessible trails available when traveling with those with differing needs including extended family. There’s also a variety of lodging available in and near the park, including in the town of Bar Harbor. It’s a perfect experience for those who aren’t interested in being totally off the grid in the wilderness and who want some more modern conveniences available to them, while still providing a huge bang for your nature buck.
While there, be sure to check out Sand Beach, and go up to the viewpoint at Cadillac Mountain (reservations for the road are currently required). And don’t miss driving the Park Loop Road – you’ll encounter some stunning scenery along the way right from the convenience of your vehicle. Be sure to stop at the Jordan Pond House for some incredible popovers!
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone was the 2nd most visited National Park last year and with good reason. People flock from around the world to see the vibrantly colored hot springs and shooting geysers first hand. And with good reason – they’re stunning! This is also a park that is great when visiting with all ages and abilities. With a variety of boardwalks and other accessible paths, and opportunities for scenic drives, it’s perfect for everyone from first-time visitors to those on their 10th visits.
While there, kids will love spotting the 4 thermal features – geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles. Try to get off the main drag a bit and scope out the West Thumb geyser basin for some amazing ones that are less frequented.Don’t miss heading out to Lamar Valley at sunrise to catch a glimpse of some amazing wildlife, and be sure to stop at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone for some incredible waterfall views. Then head up to Mammoth Hot Springs at the northern end of the park to see the ethereal travertine terraces.
After finishing up at Yellowstone, be sure to leave some time to head down to Grand Teton National Park, just an hour or two south. There you’ll find the most pristine alpine lakes and the types of mountain views that you’d draw as a 5-year old just learning to draw mountains. It’s pretty darn magical!Trying to figure out the best way to spend your time? Here’s a Yellowstone itinerary with kids and a Grand Teton itinerary with kids.
White Sands National Park
Though not as popular as some of the big names, White Sands is an absolutely incredible National Park for families! It’s just pure, unadulterated fun, and little ones are sure to love it. Unlike other parks that may require a lot of activity that may seem like “work” for kiddos (hiking, biking, etc.), White Sands doesn’t need any of that to have fun. Instead, it’s basically just a giant sandbox! The world’s largest gypsum dune field is perfect for kids of all ages (even big kids!) to run around and have fun.
There aren’t any official trails at White Sands, though there is a short nature boardwalk to learn a bit about the area. You can also follow unmarked sand trails; just be sure to leave with plenty of light and a good sense of direction, and let the rangers know when you head out.
Other than that, the highlight of White Sands is sledding on the sand dunes. Purchase sleds beforehand in town (they sometimes have them available in the visitors’ center, but not always), and be sure to wax them down so they’re nice and smooth. Then spend the day sledding down over and over. You’ll be shocked at how much fun it is, and also how much energy everyone will burn with climbing back up over and over!
Rocky Mountain National Park
There’s something about mountain lakes and streams that’s incredibly appealing for all ages. Rocky Mountain is perfect for adventurous families into hiking, or for those who really love wildlife. For those who don’t want anything too strenuous, head to Bear Lake. While pristine and stunning, it’s less than a mile around with almost no elevation gain so it’s perfect for varying abilities. This one, and the equally short Sprague Lake trail, are also wheelchair-accessible.
For those who want something a bit more strenuous, consider the Emerald Lake trail, which actually allows you to see three different lakes instead of just one. While the elevation gain makes it a bit more strenuous, it’s well worth the trek for the stunning mountain views.
For those who aren’t interested in hiking Rocky Mountain National Park also boasts the highest paved road in the continental United States. Trail Ridge Road takes you right up into the alpine tundra up to an altitude of over 12,000 feet. Perfect for enjoying views with napping babies or tired kiddos. You’ll spot all kinds of wildlife along the way, and it’s very neat to see how it changes along the way. Then head back down into the valley to spot some of the bigger animals! For more info, here’s a full guide to visiting Rocky Mountain National Park with kids.
There you have it! Five absolutely incredible National Parks for families to visit. Have you visited any of these before? If so, which ones did you love? Or if not, which is your family’s favorite National Park? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
- Author Details
Preethi loves exploring the world at home and abroad with her husband and 5 little kids. She loves fostering curiosity and connection, as well as sharing tips for family travel with a social justice lens, especially while RVing through America’s outdoor gems. She’s currently visited 63 countries (43 with kids), 49 US states, and 43 national parks.
Local Passport Family
What is the best national park to visit with kids? ›
- Zion National Park, Utah.
- Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
- Acadia National Park, Maine.
- Olympic National Park, Washington.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee.
- Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky.
- Everglades National Park, Florida.
- Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Getty Images. ...
- Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Getty Images. ...
- Yosemite National Park, California. ...
- Glacier National Park, Montana. ...
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee. ...
- Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska. ...
- Zion National Park, Utah.
There is no shortage of camping locations in the National Park Service -- there are over 130 park units to choose from! Use the map below to find a park with camping opportunities. Each location will link you directly to that park's website.What Canyon in California is a national park? ›
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (U.S. National Park Service)What is the number 1 visited national park? ›
Coming in at the top spot with a whopping 12.1 million visits, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the country's most-visited national park. Crossing North Carolina and Tennessee, this park is known for its wildlife, waterfalls, and fog-covered mountains.What is the number 1 national park in the world? ›
Yellowstone. With numerous attractions scattered throughout its more than 2 million acres, Yellowstone is a national treasure. This protected area in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho is America's first national park (established in 1872), but its age has not dulled its natural beauty.What the longest you can camp in a national park? ›
Almost 98% of National Park campgrounds can accommodate RVs up to 19 feet long. You will still have a large number of options if your RV is up to 25 feet since more than 90% of parks permit that length. On average, national parks will allow RVs with a maximum length of 27 feet.How much does it cost to camp in US national parks? ›
|National Park||Cost Per Night|
|2||Grand Canyon National Park||$18 - $50 per night|
|3||Rocky Mountain National Park||$20 - $50 per night (depending on the season + size of the campsite)|
|4||Zion National Park||$20 - $130 per night|
|5||Yosemite National Park||$36 - $75 per night|
There are a lot of great camping and outdoor destinations across the United States — camping is abundant at national and state parks, forests, wilderness areas, and preserves. Each US state has a unique appeal for campers, but these five stand out from the rest: Colorado, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, and New York.Is Kings Canyon better than Yosemite? ›
Sequoia and Kings Canyon reach much higher than Yosemite.
In fact, Sequoia and Kings Canyon are each home to a half-dozen mountains over 14,000 feet. Between them, the parks have 45 peaks that dwarf Yosemite's tallest one, 13,150-foot Mount Ritter.
How far is Sequoia from LA? ›
The most direct route to get from Los Angeles to Sequoia and back is about 330 miles long and takes 3 1/2 hours by car. Starting from Los Angeles, you need to take I-5 north and at Wheeler Ridge, continue on the Golden State Hwy (the CA-99).Is Sequoia or Kings Canyon better? ›
The main difference between the parks is that the Sequoia national park has more groves of the famous trees. Kings Canyon Park, however, has multiple canyons, valleys, waterfalls, and peaks.What is the most unpopular national park? ›
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in Alaska is the least-visited US national park.What is the coolest national park? ›
Yosemite National Park
Without a doubt, Yosemite is one of the best national parks in the USA to visit. With its iconic landmarks such as Half Dome and El Capitan, its beautiful valley, and long list of hiking trails, this is a park that should go at the top of your list.
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska
With no roads or trails and a landscape carved by glaciers, Alaska's Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is for the traveler looking to truly get away from it all. With just 7,362 visitors in 2021, it was the least-visited national park of the year.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
One of the best national parks in America is also the most popular receiving more visits annually than any other national park.
- Yosemite National Park. In a park full of awe-inspiring granite domes, here are 7 epic views you won't want to miss.
- Rocky Mountain National Park. ...
- Grand Canyon National Park. ...
- Zion National Park. ...
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park. ...
- Olympic National Park. ...
- Yellowstone National Park.
Both of these Parks offer great outdoor activities for all ages. For canyoneering and rappelling, Zion beats Bryce. You'll find world-class hiking in either Park, but in Zion you can find yourself hiking through streams or on sandstone ledges, like Angels Landing – one of the scariest hikes in the world!What is the most famous park in America? ›
|NATIONAL PARK||NUMBER OF VISITORS PER YEAR*|
|1||Great Smoky Mountains National Park||12 M|
|2||Grand Canyon National Park||6.2 M|
|3||Rocky Mountain National Park||4.6 M|
|4||Zion National Park||4.4 M|
"If you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime hiking experience, Zion is the place for you. With some of the most iconic hiking trails and one of the most picturesque canyon views in America, this natural wonder is sure worth a visit," says Naveen Dittakavi, founder and CEO of Next Vacay.
What national park is a must? ›
Yosemite National Park – California.What is the most beautiful park in the world? ›
Sprawled over 340 hectares, Central Park tops the list of the world's most beautiful parks. The green expanse, nestled in the heart of Manhattan, acts as a scrubber, cleaning New York's stuffy air.Which is the only floating national park in the world 2 points? ›
The Keibul Lamjao National Park (Meitei: Keibul Lamjao Leipakki Lampak) is a national park in the Bishnupur district of the state of Manipur in India. It is 40 km2 (15.4 sq mi) in area, the only floating park in the world, located in North East India, and an integral part of Loktak Lake.What should we not do in national park? ›
- Approach an animal too closely - respect their privacy (around 20 m away)
- Drive fast, nor off the designated road/trail.
- Make sudden movements.
- Leave any litter in the park even if a basket is provided there. ...
- Enter the park if under the influence of alcohol.
- Take babies, small children or pets.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park is easy to access and get around in due to the six entrances that it has. Additionally, the park has three visitor centers, plenty of scenic drives with hundreds of turnouts, viewpoints and picnic spots.What are the three activities that are forbidden inside the national park? ›
The activities that are not allowed in the national parks are: Farming: As it requires a large area of land to be used. Fishing: As it affects the water creatures. Killing animals: It is strictly prohibited and is a punishable act if practiced so.What is the 56 camping day rule? ›
At present, farmers and landowners can operate a campsite on their land for 28 days every year without applying for planning permission. See also: What's the outlook for farm-based staycations in 2022? This was extended to 56 days in 2020 and 2021 to help rural communities recover from the pandemic.What is the number 1 rule of wild camping? ›
The golden rule of wild camping: arrive late and leave early - remembering to leave no trace! Plan arriving at your chosen location late in the day to avoid disturbing others and leave early before other walkers are out and about.What do flamingos mean in an RV park? ›
Does a Flamingo Symbolize Swinging? Pink flamingos may also symbolize the swinging lifestyle. Although less common, the flamingo symbolizes someone looking to swing. Yet the pink flamingo is mostly a harmless RV patio feature that dates back to the Vintage Era (1945-1970).Does it cost money to camp at Yellowstone? ›
How much will it cost to camp in Yellowstone? Campsites cost as little as at $15 per night, per site. Most campgrounds with more amenities such as flush toilets and nearby laundry facilities range from $20 to $31 per night.
How much money do you need to camp? ›
On average, a standard campsite's cost is between $12 to $45 per night. This range depends on whether you are using a basic site with a fire pit or one with full amenities. Many parks also provide an annual pass, at between $30 to $80.What is the 2 2 2 rule for camping? ›
The RVing 2/2/2 rule is a safe and effective way to plan your travel. It means drive no more than 200 miles a day, stop every 2 hours, and stay 2 nights in each place. Some RVers also put an appendix on the rule encouraging drivers to arrive at an overnight destination by 2:00 p.m.What is the safest state to camp in? ›
Safest U.S. States for Camping
Rhode Island has zero accidents and zero crimes at both its national parks since the National Park Service started using its Incident Management Analysis and Reporting System in 2013.
We've done both parks with little ones and are returning to Glacier next year (having done Yellowstone twice with our toddlers). Both parks have some nice trails you can hike with your kids but overall Yellowstone has more family oriented opportunities imho.Which Disney park is better for a 5 year old? ›
Magic Kingdom is one of the best Disney parks for 5 year old and younger, offering a wide array of options for families—from character meet-and-greets to attractions to a stunning fireworks display. Make sure you watch your child's face when a parade goes by at Magic Kingdom.Is Zion National Park good for little kids? ›
Visiting Zion with Kids
Trails – Several of the trails in Zion Canyon are rated as Easy and a good fit for families. The Pa'rus Trail, Lower Emerald Pools Trail, and Riverside Walk Trail provide short hikes along a paved surface that will give hikers a good overview of the canyon.
I've done both and while I did enjoy GTNP, Glacier is a much bigger Park with more diverse mountain views, significantly better hiking opportunities, and slightly better wildlife viewing as well as several historic structures (lodges) and the truly magnificent drive on Going to the Sun roAd.How many days do you need in Glacier National Park with kids? ›
However you decide to experience the wonders of Glacier National Park with kids, I would give yourself at least three days during your Montana vacation that is dedicated to Glacier. This way you don't feel too rushed, you'll have three mornings to enjoy and can even head back in the evening after a mid-afternoon nap.How much does it cost for a 5 year old to go to Disney World? ›
The 2022-2023 cost of a basic one-day ticket to a single Disney World theme park ranges from $109 to $159 for each Guest aged 10+, with most days of the year priced at $134 or higher. Tickets are slightly discounted ($104 to $154) for children ages 3-9. Kids younger than age 3 are free and don't need a ticket.What age is Magic Kingdom good for? ›
Disney's Magic Kingdom (Ages 3 to 12)
Kids ages 3 to 12 will enjoy this park best. There are multiple rides that don't have a height requirement like many of the other parks' attractions do. Kids can see their favorite Disney princesses or Mickey Mouse and his pals, and even dine in Beast's Castle at Be Our Guest.
Is arches or Zion better? ›
If you want a couple of long hikes, Zion. If you want a lot of shorter hikes with a couple slightly longer, then Arches. With one day in Zion you could hike the Narrows and Angels Landing (assuming you can get a permit) or you could do a few other hikes and stop at pull-offs on the east side.What is the best month to go to Zion National Park? ›
The best months to visit Zion National Park are March, April, October, or November. The weather is more mild, but all park facilities are open and crowds are fewer.Which national park is hardest to visit? ›
- Gates of the Arctic National Park.
- Dry Tortugas National Park.
- Isle Royale National Park.
- Katmai National Park and Preserve.
- Kobuk Valley National Park.